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The English Restoration, or simply The Restoration, was an episode in the history of Britain beginning in 1660 when the English monarchy, Scottish monarchy and Irish monarchy were restored under King Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the English Civil War. The term Restoration may apply both to the actual event by which the monarchy was restored, and to the period immediately following the accession of Charles II. In English literature the Restoration period (often called the age of Dryden) is commonly viewed as extending from 1660 to the death of John Dryden in 1700. Alternatively one might consider the reign of King James I (1603) till Queen Anne (1714) as the Stuart period.
After the death of Oliver Cromwell in Sept., 1658, the English republican experiment soon faltered. Cromwell's son and successor, Richard, was an ineffectual leader, and power quickly fell into the hands of the generals, chief among whom was George Monck, leader of the army of occupation in Scotland. In England a strong reaction had set in against Puritan supremacy and military control. When Monck marched on London with his army, opinion had already crystallized in favor of recalling the exiled king.
Monck recalled to the Rump Parliament the members who had been excluded by Pride's Purge in 1648; the reconvened body voted its own dissolution. The newly elected Convention Parliament, which met in the spring of 1660, was overtly royalist in sympathy. An emissary was sent to the United Provinces of the Netherlands, and Charles was easily persuaded to issue the document known as the Declaration of Breda, promising an amnesty to the former enemies of the house of Stuart and guaranteeing religious toleration and payment of arrears in salary to the army. Charles accepted the subsequent invitation to return to England and landed at Dover on May 25, 1660, entering London amid rejoicing four days later.
Control of policy fell to Charles's inner circle of old Cavalier supporters, notably to Edward Hyde, 1st earl of Clarendon, who was eventually superseded by a group known as the Cabal. The last remnants of military republicanism, as exemplified in the Fifth Monarchy Men, were violently suppressed, and persecution spread to include the Quakers. The Cavalier Parliament, which assembled in 1661, restored a militant Anglicanism, and Charles attempted, although cautiously, to reassert the old absolutist position of the earlier Stuarts. The crown, however, was still dependent upon Parliament for its finances.
Highlights of the Restoration
The Restoration period was marked by an advance in colonization and overseas trade, by the Dutch Wars, by the great plague (1665) and the great fire of London (1666), by the birth of the Whig and Tory parties, and by the Popish Plot and other manifestations of anti-Catholicism. In literature perhaps the most outstanding result of the Restoration was the reopening of the theatres, which had been closed since 1642, and a consequent great revival of the drama. The drama of the period was marked by brilliance of wit and by licentiousness, which may have been a reflection of the freeness of court manners. The last and greatest works of John Milton fall within the period but are not typical of it; the same is true of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678). The age is vividly brought to life in the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, and in poetry the Restoration is distinguished by the work of John Dryden and a number of other poets.